Ozark Pudding - Gastro Obscura

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Ozark Pudding

Bess Truman made this dessert for Winston Churchill after his “Iron Curtain” speech.

Winston Churchill gave his legendary “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. That fateful evening, he and President Harry Truman had dinner together, and Bess Truman served Ozark pudding. This mashup between an apple crisp and a pecan pie isn’t much to look at, but its sticky, buttery-crisp bottom and airy crust overcompensate for its lack of style.

South Carolinians call the same dessert Huguenot torte, all thanks to a chef named Evelyn Anderson Florance. Florance made desserts at the Huguenot Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina, during the 1940s. There, she recreated the Ozark pudding she’d first tried at a church dinner a decade earlier. She renamed the sweet in honor of the restaurant, then had the recipe printed in a Charleston community cookbook in 1950. Thus, Ozark Pudding became known as Huguenot torte.

The dessert has very little to do with the Huguenots, a group of Protestants who fled violent persecution in France. After religious freedom was abolished in 1685 (a result of revoking the Edict of Nantes), thousands of French Protestants fled to the United States. A large portion of them settled in South Carolina. And yet, while many of their descendants love Huguenot torte, they were not responsible for its creation (despite the misconception bred by Florance’s recipe). Another hint that Ozark pudding was never French? It calls for baking powder, a 19th-century British invention.

In yet another act of historical misattribution, the New York Times printed a recipe for “Huguenot torte” in 1965, re-published from Martin and Hannah Van Buren’s chapter in The First Ladies Cook Book. A follow-up piece called the faux-pas “a historical impossibility,” as Van Buren’s term ended nearly a century before the dish was invented. Though, as historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman points out, the ex-president probably would have loved it, “had he been alive when it was created.”

Need to Know

You can find recipes for Ozark pudding online. Some suggest using Bartlett pears, but Bess Truman went for Granny Smith apples.

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